Fellowship Kidz

By Deacon Benjamin Tucci

Fellowship Kidz events are for children ages five through 10, using their parents, older youth, young adults, family, and friends as volunteers to help everyone connect to ` life of the parish. In this busy world, it is very difficult to create ministry moments for people to bond together in a spirit of Christian fellowship and joy. These activities can include fun indoor/outdoor games, Bible/Orthodox trivia, service projects, food, and fun.

At St. Mary’s Orthodox Cathedral in Minneapolis, we implemented these activities about four years ago for a variety of reasons:

  • We had no activities for this particular age group.
  • We wanted to actively engage the parents of this group as volunteers so that they could connect to the life of the parish and help develop future youth leaders.
  • We had a FOCA Jr. Chapter (the St. Mary’s Saints) for sixth through twelfth graders that needed more volunteer support and capable advisors for the future with no one stepping forward. The future looked a bit dismal.
  • We had problems getting the pre-teens and teens to connect with each other and to the church. We had been relying on the Church School program to keep them involved. The idea was to teach them the faith so that they could weather the storms of life and remain active participants in the parish. The problem is that there were too many things competing for their time—sports, other activities, many friends outside the parish. Their lives seemed just too busy to be involved.

The simple fact is that if you do not find ways to get your young children interested in the church, they will find interesting things to do elsewhere. School and extracurricular activities are the number one priority for them. If your church waits to have retreats and camps for pre-teens and teens, it may not be so successful, and may actually be too late. Start sowing seeds earlier by doing Fellowship Kidz events and you will see more success among your pre-teens and teens, leading to their active commitment to the life of the church. Now that we have implemented the Fellowship Kidz events, we have more volunteers to work with among the adults and young adults. It has done wonders to revitalize our youth ministry efforts.

How to start a Fellowship Kidz group

You may have many questions about how to start a Fellowship Kidz group. The idea is to keep it as simple as possible. You will need to find a coordinator. The parish priest is usually far too busy to coordinate these events. The coordinator’s task is to keep a calendar, arrange volunteer help and support, brainstorm ideas with parents and others, and make sure that all event particulars are in place.

In order to begin a Fellowship Kidz event, the coordinator needs to do the following:

  1. Gather email addresses, phone numbers and home addresses of all the families in the parish who have children that are in Kindergarten through Fifth grades.
  2. Have a brainstorming session with the parents of this group. I would suggest doing this on a Sunday following the Divine Liturgy.
    • Create a vision statement for this group. What do they want the group to accomplish? Do they want the parents to be involved as volunteers? Do they want events just for the children of this age group?
    • Ask what they would like to do as a group? Create a list. Keep ideas flowing.
    • Once you have your list, pick two or three of the best and easiest activities.
    • Set a calendar of events.
  3. For your first event, recruit volunteers. This is one of the hardest tasks as it will require a bit of knowing who is good at doing what. At St. Mary’s, we scan the crowd at coffee hour and personally ask people to help us. We give them specific and targeted information of what we need them to do. If you ask, “Can you be in charge of the food for our Fellowship Kidz event?” the request might be too overwhelming. However, if you ask someone to purchase the food and you have someone else prepare and serve it, you might get a better response. At some of our larger events, our coordinator makes sure that there are one or two people doing the food preparation and serving, a crafts person, an activity person who is responsible for coming up with a fun physical activity with the group, a priest or teacher to lead the religious based activity, and a few to help clean up after the event.

Advantages to having Fellowship Kidz

There are so many advantages to having the Fellowship Kidz activities. The kids have fun and the parents unknowingly are in training to be future leaders of youth ministry. At St. Mary’s, our parents bonded at these events and are now going places together and doing things together as families outside of the Fellowship Kidz activities. It was a great place for them to break the ice and get to know one another.

Consistency is the key! If you have Fellowship Kidz events, make sure you have these events on a regular basis. If you plan to have them once a month, for example, make sure it is always on the second Tuesday of the month at 6 pm. In this way, families will get into the habit of coming on that particular day and won’t even need to be reminded to come, as they would have established a healthy habit.

You can also choose a theme each month. Arrange all of your crafts, games, food, and fun around that theme. Themes help you stay focused and are essential in the advertising of the event. The theme does not necessarily need to be of a religious nature. You can have bug parities, cowpoke hoedowns, PJ parties, and indoor winter beach parties. The idea is to add elements of fellowship, education, worship and service. At your beach party, for example, the kids can make cards for parish shut-ins out of colorful sand, glue, and construction paper. It’s easy and simple. Keep it that way as often as you can.

Example Fellowship Kidz Event From Start to Finish

Winter Carnival 2007

(This event happened in February. It was very successful and fun.)

6 pmPrayer in the Chapel

6:30 pmDinner Rosemary Garlic Chicken Legs Bread and Butter Salad Dessert

(We do not always have a dinner planned for the Fellowship Kidz events. For simplicity, try having a snack instead. One of my all-time favorites is when we had the kids make up their own trail mix. We purchased six to ten trail mix ingredients—enough for the group. These could include raisins, dried fruits, and small candies like M&Ms or corn candies. We have children with peanut allergies so we stay away from them. The kids are each given a sandwich size snack bag to fill up, using a spoonful of their favorites.)

6:45 pmCrafts… Finger painting, beads, rainbow sketch

7 pm to 7:20 pmGame: “Capture the Animals” (so they don’t freeze)

Rules of the Game: Divide into two teams. 1) Team Snowmen 2) Team Snowflakes Each team chooses or creates a song they can all sing. Two team members are chosen and given a stuffed animal to hide. A Team Snowman hides the animal on the lower level of the building. A Team Snowflake hides the animal on the upper level of the building.

Holding hands, each team has to sing their song and look for the animal, find it, and bring it back to the dining room. The first team back wins a ribbon. The whole team has to be in the dining room, singing their song to win. Rules: No running. Watch out for each other. A lot of fun.

7:20 to 7:40Religion with Fr. Andrew

7:40 to 8 pmWinter Wonderland—Dress Up and Play Time

For the Winter Carnival the kids dressed up in costumes and had a parade for their parents. The ensemble consisted of a King and Queen (the oldest girl and guy) who were crowned, two princes with sword, two princesses, 1 court jester, 2 fairy princesses with wings, three or four knights.

As You Get Started

Don’t be surprised if you have many pitfalls and setbacks along the way. If you decide to take up the initiative, an important thing to remember is that the devil does not want these healthy activities to happen. He will do whatever to stop you. As a coordinator, you need to know that what you are doing is a ministry. Keep going, keep trying, and keep enduring the attacks from people and life situations.

At my initial brainstorming session, there were two people that attended. This was horribly discouraging. However, the three of us worked up an entire schedule of events. We recruited other volunteers and have had many successful activities. It might also happen that at your first event, few children will show up. Work with the few that do come. If it’s fun, there soon will be more. Try to get more and more people involved in serving this ministry. May God bless your efforts.

For more ideas on how to get Fellowship Kidz going in your parish, for more favorite craft and snack recipes such as making your own"yuk”, “ooze”, kool aid playdough, and ice cream, contact Deacon Benjamin Tucci. Email: youthdirector@stmarysoca.org or call him at: (612) 599-1125.

Deacon Benjamin Tucci is the Youth Coordinator for St. Mary’s Cathedral, Minneapolis, MN.

Teen Education – Passion, Prayer, Education

By Alexandra Lucs

We all know that our youth are critical to the vitality of our church – both present and future. Unfortunately, it is in the critical age of the teenager years that many parishes lose so many of these members, and many will never return. As they learn more about the world around them they often begin to feel that they have outgrown the church. Therefore, we ask ourselves what we can do to show the love of Christ to these maturing members of our church and how to engage and educate them so that they continue to grow within the church. Parishioners of all ages have an effect on this age group, simply by being members of the church and interacting, or failing to interact, with the teens. Educators in particular play a central role in maintaining the students’ engagement with the church. In the article that follows I humbly offer my advice on teaching this age group as well as examples from my class.

Passion, Prayer, Education

There are three tools which will, if used properly, engage youth in their church – passion, education and prayer. Teenagers are by their very nature passionate beings. They are most easily engaged when responding to passion. In this case, our task is simple – to portray our passion for our faith. Education, although not absolutely necessary for a close relationship with God, is armor with which our youth will be better able to withstand the assaults of the secular world. In an age when basic morals are being compromised, questioned, or challenged and with religious sects and atheism abounding, many of our youth are faced with questions that they are poorly equipped to handle. Without the strength of knowledge some will leave the faith simply because of confusion. And, of course, our efforts are in vain without prayer. No matter how extensive your preparations are, if you are not praying for the students and their struggles, you will not reach them. In this I speak from painful experience. One year I grew too complacent with my class and inadvertently stopped my prayers for them. The results were loss of interest on their part and frustration on my part. It was not until I started praying for them again that I began to notice a positive change in their attitude.

Education

Passion and prayer are both very personal, and, other than the brief example I have given regarding prayer, are difficult to expound upon. Education, however, more readily lends itself to examples. In our parish, education at the teenage level is based on the theory that experiences are critical and the engagement of the students on multiple levels is essential. Although still a work-in-progress the basic format of the class is a teacher-led discussion for 35-45 min after the Divine Liturgy. This weekly routine is enhanced by a series of guest speakers and field trips. The curriculum varies from year to year and is based on the needs and feedback of the students in the class. These needs vary incredibly as our class encompasses students in the 11-16 year old age range. Although not an ideal age range, the inclusion of so many ages gives us a critical mass that allows for engaging conversations on a weekly basis.

Discussions are the central part of the class and the most unpredictable. I have had lessons planned on the structure of the Divine Liturgy and found the discussion to center around the proof of the existence of God or a lesson on St. Mary of Egypt which ended in a discussion of the church’s stance on masturbation. Honest, frank, and open conversation is the strongest asset of our weekly classes. I pray that it prepares the students for the choices they will soon have to make.

Outside the Parish

Those choices become magnified once they leave their home parish and find differences in the way that the faith is practiced in other parishes by other people. To more properly prepare them for the world that they will encounter beyond their home parish we also have guest speakers and field trips. The guest speakers bring into our classroom a sense of what it means to be Orthodox outside the parish. They have ranged from an Orthodox surgeon to His Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah. If there is someone whom you feel would have an impact on the lives of teens in your parishes, I encourage you to ask them about speaking. Even people from far away or who you think are too busy – with some organization and enthusiasm, will find a way to come if they see your passion and desire to educate the teens in your community. Guest speakers can also be a blessing for the parish in that, when appropriate, they can deliver the homily during the Liturgy. However, their main task is to speak to the teen class and so the regularly-scheduled Church school time is protected for them.

It may also be necessary to plan for an honorarium to be made available from the parish’s budget for church school curriculum. Keep this in mind if it is appropriate for the guest.

Field trips cannot be contained in that time, and so are not as well attended but can have a huge impact on the students. We have had trips that range from visiting the local synagogue to a weekend trip to an Orthodox monastery. This does require additional planning, and permission from parents, but can serve as a great bonding experience for the teens as well as their families, and you the teacher.

Prepare for the Unexpected, Love Your Students and Pray Intensely

The best advice I can give about teaching a teen class is to be prepared for the unexpected, love your students and pray intensely. There are many challenges from parishioners, parents, and the students, but there is also love and support from all of these and most importantly from God. May God bless all of our interactions with the youth and protect his next generation of Saints.

Questions for Discussion

Does your parish have a Teen Class?
If so, what topics have most held their interest and sparked some good discussions?
What materials that you’ve used have been most successful?
In what ways could you improve your program? Have you considered outside speakers, field trips? If you’ve had them, have they been a plus to your teen program?

Do your teens bond as a group? If so, how? where? If not, what are the obstacles?

How else are your teens engaged in parish life besides the Teen Class?
During worship?
In social programs?
In parish or community outreach programs?
In sports?
Other?

Alexandra Lucs, who attends Holy Trinity Church, East Meadow, NY, has been active in the church since childhood. She is the mother of two daughters, age four and nine, and a cancer researcher at the Feinstein Institute of Medical Research on Long Island, NY.

What’s It Like?

By Fr. John Shimchick

The Covenant House Sleep Out – Student Edition
Orthodox Church of the Holy Cross
Medford, NJ

What’s it like to feel or not feel safe? What do you do when you’ve been led to believe that you’re not capable or are worthless? What’s it like to be uncertain about your daily meals, where you’ll wash up, where you’ll sleep at night, and most other things in your life?

These are among the questions raised during the Covenant House Sleep Outheld between Friday, April 28 and Saturday, April 29 at the Orthodox Church of the Holy Cross, Medford, NJ.  The Sleep Out — the first of its kind in Burlington County (southern New Jersey) — brought together fifteen kids (ages 12-17) from the Holy Cross parish and other faith communities, supported by adult chaperones. They spent the night within cardboard boxes and their sleeping bags on the parish’s parking lot, away from the comfort of their homes, experiencing something of the uncertainty and discomfort of life on the street. While raising funds to benefit the efforts of Covenant House in Camden, NJ, they learned about the plight of homeless young people — not the kids thousands of miles away or on TV — but the kids just a few miles away, who slip by unnoticed. 

Presentations were offered by parishioner and Sleep Out Coordinator, Phyllis Pritchard, pastor, Fr. John Shimchick, Sergeant Robert Zane from the Medford Police Department, Patricia Piserchia, Homeless Liaison for the Lenape School District, Mandi Cruz, Covenant House staff member, and Lakeisha who shared her story and affirmed the help she received from Covenant House.  The children then broke into groups and discussed their impressions of what they had heard.  They organized these impressions into posters and letters that they imagined could be shared with homeless youth. 

Fr. John shared with them the opening moments of the Orthodox Paschal service and how the light from a single candle is taken, shared with the whole community, and then brought out into the darkness of night.  He reminded the group of children and adults that they likewise were preparing to go into the darkness.  Part of the hopes for this evening would be that they would receive the light and would share it with one another.  Being prepared and called to go out and spread the light of Christ with all we meet is the primary experience of Pascha and of the Christian life.  The students all would re-enact this opportunity by going out together to the parish’s Biblical garden where Fr. John once again lit the triple-candle cross from a single light and shared it with the assembled group. 

A Prayer for the Homeless was then read:

Hear our prayer today for all women and men, boys and girls who are homeless today.
For those sleeping under bridges, on park benches, in doorways or bus stations.
For those who can only find shelter for the night, but must wander in the daytime.
For families broken because they could not afford to pay the rent.
For those who have no relatives or friends who can take them in.
For those who have no place to keep possessions that remind them who they are.
For those who are afraid and hopeless.
For those who have been betrayed by our social safety net.
For all these people, we pray that you will provide shelter, security, and hope.
We pray for those of us with warm houses and comfortable beds that we not be lulled into complacency and forgetfulness.  Jesus, help us to see your face in the eyes of every homeless person we meet so that we may be empowered through word and deed, and through the political means we have, to bring justice and peace to those who are homeless.
Amen.

The group gathered back within the church for evening prayer, a congregational reading of Scripture (Psalm 139), and a final prayer and petition which included their own specific intents.

Then they went out to their boxes and many fell asleep, while the chaperones remained awake.  Everything was fine until around 2 AM, when thunder, lightning, and rain disrupted the calm and added a significant level of drama and uncertainty (something which can often happen in life on the street).  Some of the children immediately woke up and understood what was going on, but several were stunned by the suddenness and confusion.  The children and their sleeping bags were brought into the church vestibule where they spent the rest of the evening, their box community collapsing in the chaos.

Around 7 AM, everyone was brought together for a simple breakfast and a sharing of their impressions, summarized in a few words:  discomfort, restless, painful, stay strong, don’t give up, being safe.  A few,  remembering Lakeisha’s comments about how uncomfortable life in shelters can be, noted that coming together into the vestibule was even more difficult than being on the street. 

In the end over $13,000.00 was raised.  The Committee was very proud of the children’s efforts and grateful for the Holy Cross parish support which included St. Helena’s Guild, part of the profits from a recent fundraiser — the Fantasy Auction, a donation from the Medford Police Department, and other sponsors.  The event received strong support from the Lenape School District and the Medford Police force (of special note were the efforts of Sergeant Robert Zane).  Connections were also established with local faith communities that we would like to further develop.

The final Sleep Out goal would be that the personal experience of learning more about the plight of youth their own age — of understanding more about “what it’s like” — will develop a greater sensitivity within the participants and guide their own willingness to be vehicles of light and hope for others.

For more information and photos about this event, please visit: www.holycrossmedford.org

For more information about Covenant House, please visit:  www.covenanthouse.org

To learn more about the Sleep Out:  Student Edition, please visit: www.studentsleepout.org

Fr. John Shimchick is pastor of the Orthodox Church of the Holy Cross in Medford, NJ and editor of “Jacob’s Well”, the journal for the OCA Archdiocese of New York-New Jersey.

St. Peter The Aleut Award Program

By Fr. Michael Anderson

Additional Resources: .pdf Application Form

In virtually every high school, public and private, students are required to complete a “service” project in order to graduate. Generally, these projects require 25 hours of community service, such as working in a soup kitchen, PADS shelter, nursing home, food pantry. In the case of public schools, and some private schools, such service is devoid of any connection with the Christian faith but is seen, rather, as an opportunity for “humanitarian service” or “volunteerism.”

In order to emphasize to our Orthodox youth the connection between such stewardship of time and their faith, and to underscore that as Christians, we do such things in imitation of Our Lord (rather than to fulfill school requirements or to gain a “good feeling” by helping someone else), the Orthodox Church in America’s Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries has initiated a “Junior Stewards” Award Program for young people in our parishes who fulfill 25 hours of “Orthodox Christian Service” to the community, to those in need.

Who qualifies for this program?

All youth and young adults of the Orthodox Church in America parishes between the ages of 12 and 21 may participate.

What are the requirements?

  1. An application must be completed and sent to the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, Box 675, Syosset, NY 11791. The project selected must be undertaken and completed outside the parish and involve interaction with people in need. (Ministries such as serving in the altar, singing in the choir, teaching Church School will not be considered for an award.)
  2. Accompanying the application should be a letter of recommendation from the participant’s pastor indicating his support for and involvement in the project as an advisor. Should the pastor wish, he may delegate another person as advisor.
  3. The application must also be signed by the on-site director of the program or project in which the applicant intends to participate. Appropriate authorization will be sent to the applicant, his or her pastor, and the on-site program director.
  4. Accompanying the letter of authorization will be a completion form to be completed by the on-site project director after fulfilling 25 hours of service. This form, which must also be signed by the pastor and the participant, must be returned to the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, together with a narrative essay describing the project, the participant’s involvement, and his or her reflections on the project. A photo of the participant engaged in his or her project should accompany the narrative essay.
  5. The award will be sent to the participant’s pastor, who will present it in an appropriate manner.

Where can I obtain applications and additional information?

Write the OCA Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries, Box 675, Syosset, NY 11791; 516/922-0550 or e-mail: youth@oca.org for further information. An application form follows.

Fr. Michael Anderson is the Director of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries.

Taking A Youth Group On An Outing

By Fr. David Subu and Ron Tucci

Additional Resources: .Sample Forms / Checklist for Outings

What is a youth outing? A youth outing is any activity that involves transporting a group of teens together to a site away from the parish and/or their parents. Typical outings include trips to museums, amusement parks and service projects.

INTRODUCTION

As youth coordinators and event planners, we do something very important: assist our children in experiencing true Orthodox Christian fellowship so that they may share and grow in their faith. They need to learn about their faith and take a more conscious role in the Church. It is our “job” to give them as many opportunities as possible to do just that.

There are tricks to every trade, and the Youth and Young Adult Office would like to share some tips about how to plan and run a successful youth outing. Included at the end of this article is a checklist of things youth will need for your outings as well as a list of “20-Something Ideas for a Youth Outing.” Many blessings and God’s saving grace be with you as you venture into the work of event planning.

DELEGATING TASKS

First and foremost, it is essential to set dates, contact parents, locate a facility, send out and have parents fill out permission slips and insurance forms. [Note: You need to have emergency medical information handy at all events. This is a must.] Planning ahead can be very time consuming and you may want to break up job responsibilities. Have others help you!

You, as the event coordinator, can appoint a contact person whose main responsibility is to gather names and addresses of possible teens, priests, church school coordinators, and other youth leaders. This will help initially with some of the work.

You can also have a communication person who will draft and distribute flyers, permission and insurance information, articles for parish, diocesan and church-wide publications, in addition to any other communication work. This will give you the freedom to explore the outing place or facility in more detail and to handle your other responsibilities. From here on, the outing facility or place will be referred to as the “site.”

Well before the date of the trip you should be familiar with the site. You will want to know the hours of operation, the cost (if any) - including special group rates and requirements for tax exemption, and any requirements that the site operators may have for incoming groups.

ARRANGING TRANSPORTATION

You will need to arrange transportation for your group. Arranging transportation is important, and it must be flexible to accommodate last-minute additions. If you are contracting outside providers, such as a bus company, make sure they are kept aware of the schedule. If you are using volunteer drivers, you should make sure that they have valid driver licenses and are mature (at least 25 years of age or older). You will also need to make sure that the vehicle they will be using is in good condition and has enough seat belts for each youth to be transported. All drivers should have directions to the site in case the group gets split up. You should also have a means of contacting each other if anyone gets lost or breaks down.

Check to make sure all forms are completed and in your possession before going on the trip. This includes a release form (permission slip), insurance information, and emergency contacts. DO NOT leave without having these forms and do not take any child on an event unless these forms are filled out. It will be your responsibility if something goes wrong and a child needs medical attention.

If there is more than one vehicle for transport, then it is necessary to make sure each child’s medical information is in his/her respective vehicle. If you get lost or separated, children will need to have their information with them in their vehicle of transport.

OTHER AREAS OF CONCERN

Any and all staff, volunteer or otherwise who will be involved should also have medical information forms completed. Having this information helps to safeguard both the youth and youth ministers. You should also have some method of keeping track of participants while you are off-site such as a sign-in / check-in, roll call, and/or head- count sheet. Lastly, in case of an injury or accident, you should have an incident report form as well. Examples of each of these are provided at the end of this article.

Have a rules talk ahead of time and on the day of the outing. Establish rules of conduct for the participants and go over them more than once. Recommended rules include the three-buddy system for teens (13-18) and two adults for every ten preteens (7-12). The three-buddy system means that all teens should be in a group of three or more persons at all times. Those who are found without at least two others get to stay with the event coordinator until they can be placed with a suitable group. Tell participants that their adult group leader(s) should know where they are at all times, and trips to the bathroom should be done in groups of at least two for safety. Also, for day-long activities where youth will be spread out, such as at amusement parks, it is useful to have one or more check-in times during the day.

ON-SITE ISSUES

Upon arriving at a site, and before taking youth into the site or even off the “bus,” it is best to first have the coordinator go into the site and confirm a number of things with the site staff (i.e., the schedule for the day, rules of conduct, and so on, and if possible, to settle the bills). Take a head count of all youth and adults before anyone enters the site (you should also have taken one before traveling to the site). All youth and staff should be reminded to take the same vehicle on the return trip to make head counting go quickly and smoothly.

It is important to know what schedule the site has for your group, since it may not be the same as your own! Some tours, for example, will require you to split up a large group into two or more smaller groups. Be prepared to offer alternative activities for any who have to wait for the next turn. If the site is offering a mix of structured and non-structured activities, then all staff and youth need to know when and where they should be for the structured activities. For example, many museums may offer special programs, such as Omnimax/Imax theaters, that are available only at certain times. Your group may be scheduled for this, but may have the rest of the time for exploring the museums’ exhibits. All participants and staff will need to know when and where they should be. If the outing site is not one with professional operators such as many public or state parks have, then you as the event coordinator must fill that role.

First, select a central, stationary point as home base for your group. This may be a pavilion at a park, an area of a museum, etc. This should be the first place you bring the group before separating into groups and going off. This base must be staffed at all times by one, preferably two, of your staff. They can then help anyone who comes in with problems or questions. If the group will be eating onsite, this station should be the place for that. This should also be the place for check ins and reassembling the group in time of bad weather and departure.

You may want to do head counts during the day at specific times. They could take place when meals are scheduled. You may want to schedule other times when all could meet for a head count. It will all depend on the length of your stay at the site.

In addition to the stationary staff, one or two wandering staff should be assigned to make rounds and check on youth as needed. If the site is exceptionally large, as are some amusement parks, an additional stationary staff member on the other side of the park is advisable. In order to really facilitate the use and placement of staff on site, it’s a good idea to invest in portable two-way radios. These are also useful if more than one vehicle is being used. Cellular phones are also useful, but primarily for communicating with people back home.

MEAL PLANNING

Some trips require that meals be a part of the activity, either on-site or en route. In any case, make sure that the food is kept and served at the proper temperatures and by the proper sanitary means. If you rely on a caterer or restaurant, make sure that you have confirmed meal times and the number of people to be servedREMINDER: if the meal requires participants to return to a central location at a certain time, they need to be told this clearly before setting off on their activity.

Even if there is no meal planned, bring water and some small snacks. During summertime activities, heat, sun, and dehydration must be protected against with drinks, hats, sunblock and other means of cooling off. Likewise in winter, outdoor activities require children to be properly dressed and staff should have warm drinks, some blankets, and hand warmers readily available. Overnight activities likewise need extra planning and equipment, especially when outdoors. And, of course, bad weather can change any schedule, so be prepared.

LEAVING THE SITE

When your group is ready to leave the site, gather at your central meeting point and take a head count. It’s better to do this at home base and before you leave the site. There is always the possibility that someone may end up missing and you want to avoid having some people in the site and some outside of it. Ending up with a person missing is, of course, the greatest concern. Keeping your group together as much as possible is the best way to prevent such situations.

Once in the vehicles, take another head count. Once everyone is accounted for, set off for home! You should try to return as closely to the scheduled time as possible, especially if parents will be waiting to pickup their kids at a set time. This is why pleas to stay a little longer cannot be accommodated in most situations. Once you return to the parish or starting point of the outing, make sure that all participants are picked up. Staff may need to stay behind to wait for late parents who need to pick up their children.

Later on, make sure to file the forms, attendance sheets, and any incident reports. You may want to make copies of any incident reports and file them at the Diocesan center level so that all levels of administration can have that information in case of any questions or concerns that might arise. This is typically not the case, but it is good for everyone involved to be properly informed. For more info, see Doing the Right Thing, available from the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry, PO Box 675, Syosset, NY 11791 or on the OCA youth page.

CONCLUSION

Those of us who have been working with and planning outings for youth and children know very well that good planning is essential. We also know, however, that only in rare instances do the outings proceed exactly as planned. It seems that no matter how many plans and backup plans we may have, something challenging always comes along. Relax and know that many of us have and can share incredible stories of when an event went differently than expected.

Fr. David Subu from the OCA Romanian Episcopate and Ron Tucci from the Diocese of the Midwest were the first Summer Interns for the OCA Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries. Both are recent graduates of St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Seminary.

20-Something Ideas For Youth Ministry Field Trips

By Fr. David Subu and Ron Tucci

  1. Monastery Pilgrimage: One of the most valuable experiences a youth can have is to spend a day or two in the monastic environment to see how deeply Christianity can be lived.
  2. Inter-Orthodox Outings / Visits to Other Churches: It is essential for teens to realize that they are not alone and that there are more Orthodox people their age than they think!
  3. Service Project: Help at a homeless shelter, food co-op, or building project. See “20-Something Ways to Get Youth Involved in Christ-like Service.”
  4. Church Council, Assembly, or Convention: Attend youth-related councils or congresses and make the youth presence known at Church councils such as the All-American Council.
  5. Nursing Home or Hospital: Visiting the sick and infirm needs to be taught early.
  6. Youth Choir Trip to Other Parishes: Some youth organizations are already recording and publishing their choir’s performances.
  7. Camp-Out: Spend an overnight or weekend stay in the woods and under the stars.
  8. Retreat at Camp / Retreat Center: This is like a camp-out but with more of the comforts of home such as beds and bathrooms!
  9. Cemetery: Remember the departed and learn about ancestors by tending graves at cemeteries where parishioners are buried.
  10. Amusement Park: This is a classic youth outing. There is often a park within two to three hours of most communities.
  11. Museum: Large exhibits of Orthodox art, Russian, Byzantine, and others, have become more popular and widespread.
  12. Sporting Event: Go to watch or to play!
  13. Science or Nature Center: With interactive exhibits, these are particularly good for younger groups. Exhibits ranging from high-tech to complete wilderness can entertain all ages.
  14. Youth March: Youth have something to say about issues of justice, so “let your light shine.”
  15. Movie: You can choose either a current feature that is of interest to your youth ministry or arrange for a special showing of another film. Be sure to preview the movie before showing it to a group.
  16. Concert: Whether secular or religious music, there are many free and open-air concerts in cities during the summer months.
  17. Fair or Festival: The local town fair, a block party, or an ethnic festival, can be great opportunities for teens to go, have fun, volunteer, or run their own booth.
  18. Zoo, Aquarium, or Botanical Garden: These trips are great for days with good weather by offering a variety of shows as well as wandering time to keep youth interested.
  19. Waterfront: Beaches, lakes, and even pools and water parks are always great places for fun and fellowship. Be prepared for sunburn!
  20. Dinner / Banquet: It can be a dinner cruise, barbecue at family fun parks, or a formal affair.
  21. Dance / Cotillion: AROY has established a very successful yearly cotillion which gathers teens from throughout the country for an elegant formal dance and a planning meeting for its activities during the coming year.
  22. Education / Career Planning at a University: This type of outing is very good for high school teens looking to make decisions about the future.
  23. Workshop with Local Artist, Educator, Activity Instructor: This is a great way to gain new experiences, insights, and skills.
  24. Ice Cream Social or Picnic: This is very simple, traditional idea. It is something that doesn’t require too much organization and a good place to start for any youth group.

For More Details on starting any of the above programs feel free to contact:

Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries
PO Box 675, Syosset, NY 11791
516/922-0550 ext. 141
Fax: 516/922-0954
E-mail: yyacm@oca.org

Let us know if you have any other ideas and how your programs worked out. People throughout the Church can benefit from experience!

Fr. David Subu from the OCA Romanian Episcopate and Ron Tucci from the Diocese of the Midwest were the first Summer interns for the OCA Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries. Both are recent graduates of St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Seminary.

Becoming Part Of The Junior Fellowship Of Orthodox Christians In America

By Fr. Michael Anderson

Introduction

Youth in the Church in North America
Youth are a vital and inherent part of the Church’s present, not just of its future. The Jr. Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America functions with the understanding that, as current members of the Body of Christ, the youth are called to use their God-given gifts to build up Christ’s Church now, not when they reach a certain age. This requires that they discover more about 1) the person God created them to be and the gifts He has given them, 2) His Son Jesus Christ and His saving death and resurrection, and 3) the life of the Church He established. Through the four areas of fellowship, education, worship, and service, members of the Jr. FOCA seek to grow in faith and to witness to God’s saving plan for His creation.

As a missionary Church, the Church in North America has many blessings and many challenges. While the Church is free to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection to all who would hear, communities are scattered across thousands of miles, sometimes in extreme isolation, other times in clusters. While the size of these communities can vary from 15 to 1,500, the youth need to feel a sense of solidarity with a larger group of Orthodox Christians (especially other Orthodox Christians their age) when they, as a minority, engage society.

The Jr. FOCA exists as a Church-wide youth movement whose purpose is to address this need. Its main mission is to build and strengthen relationships among the Orthodox youth through its many projects and programs, while witnessing to the Orthodox Christian Faith. Some activities are done on a local level in conjunction with Orthodox youth across North America. Other activities gather the Orthodox youth together on regional, national, and even international levels.

Overview

What is the Junior Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America (Jr. FOCA)?
The Jr. FOCA is the youth component of the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America and a youth organization of the Orthodox Church in America, dedicated to uniting Orthodox youth in fellowship, education, worship, and service.

What is our mission?
Our mission is to build and strengthen relationships between the Orthodox youth and Christ and His Church through fellowship, education, worship and service.

What do we, as an organization, hope to accomplish?

  1. To foster the ongoing spiritual growth of young people.
  2. To foster the continual integration of young people into the life and ministry of the Church.
  3. To gather the Orthodox Christian youth together for friendship, service to others, and growth in faith.
  4. To encourage its members to learn, practice, uphold, and communicate the Orthodox Christian Faith.
  5. To support and work for the strengthening of the Orthodox Church in North America.
  6. To strengthen spiritual and social bonds with other Orthodox youth.
  7. To contribute toward the development of healthy community life among Orthodox Christians.
  8. To foster the desire to continue serving the Church as adult members of the Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America.


What are our general policies?
As the youth component of the FOCA and a youth organization of the Orthodox Church in America, our policies are:

  1. To live in accordance with the teachings of the Orthodox Christian Faith.
  2. To work in harmony and cooperation with the parish priest, his assistants, and other leaders of the community.
  3. To work toward developing and maintaining friendly and fraternal relations with other organizations whose aims, policies, and activities are similar to the Jr. FOCA.
  4. To take interest in and have an active part in the life of the local community both inside and outside the parish.
  5. To provide Orthodox Christian fellowship among the Orthodox youth.
  6. To provide Orthodox Christian education among the Orthodox youth.
  7. To provide Orthodox Christian worship among the Orthodox youth.
  8. To provide opportunities for service to others by the Orthodox youth.

Our motto
The motto of the Junior Fellowship of Orthodox Christians in America is…

“Pray, Study, Work and be Temperate (be Self-controlled).”

North American Programs

JR. OLYMPICS—Held at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Youth Camp in northeast Ohio, this one-week summer program gathers Orthodox young people, ages 10-17, for a week of fun, competition in events including softball, basketball, soccer, as well as more “wacky” items.

ESSAY CONTEST—Every spring a topic is chosen and members are given the ability to submit essays, which are judged based upon originality, development of idea, organization, grammar/correctness, clarity of thought, vocabulary/word choices, met criteria. Judging is divided into four age brackets. Everyone who submits an essay is given a small prize such as a gift certificate to a nationwide chain of bookstores, and the winners of each age bracket receive a savings bond.

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SHARING THE LIGHT OF ORTHODOXY—Each spring, Jr. FOCA chapters decide on a way that they as a group can witness to their Faith by helping others. This project originated as a fund-raiser to help mission communities throughout North America, but has developed over time also to include other types of witness, including cleaning up the yards of elderly parishioners, visiting mission communities and helping them plant flowers for the springtime, visiting and preparing small gifts for people in hospitals and/or nursing homes. Groups all light candles in Church for the mission they are helping and, when doing a fund-raiser and sending them monies, often send them those candles along with a picture as a symbol of their prayerful support.

CHRISTMAS STOCKING PROJECT—Organized by the OCA’s Office of Humanitarian Aid, every fall the Jr. FOCA raises funds so that disadvantaged Orthodox children in places such as Russia, Byelorus, Ukraine, Alaska, and Mexico can receive a stocking full of treats around the time of the feast of our Lord’s Nativity (Christmas). Persons in the USA with cerebral palsy prepare these stockings. They, in turn, earn spending money and get to feel a part of a project that is helping others.

BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT—As one of its largest events, each spring after Pascha, the FOCA runs a Basketball tournament for all its members aged 10 through adult in a different part of the country. Male and female teams of every athletic ability gather to compete and (more importantly) to come together in fellowship over a weekend that includes games, Saturday evening services, Sunday Divine Liturgy, as well as a fun dinner and dance. For information about participating, contact the FOCA Administrative Office for copies of the Sports Rules as well as the contact information of the event coordinator(s).

BOWLING TOURNAMENT—Each spring the FOCA gathers all its members (young and old) who like to bowl for a weekend of competition, fellowship, and worship. Individuals who do not have a team are placed on “ad-hoc” teams so that everyone who wants to can participate. Contact the National Administrative Office for information.

SUMMER SPORTS TOURNAMENT—Each June the golfers of the FOCA gather for this weekend event. Discussion is currently taking place to include other summer sports such as volleyball, softball, etc. Contact the National Administrative Office and check the FOCA’s official publication, the Orthodox Christian Journal, for more information.

GRADUATION GIFT PACKETS—Each year the FOCA sends packets with Orthodox items (a small icon, prayerbook, etc.) to high school and college graduates whose name and addresses are submitted during the spring and summer. Graduates do not have to be members of the FOCA to receive a packet. Contact the FOCA Administrative Office about where to send the list of names and addresses.

SCHOLARSHIPS—Every year the FOCA offers a number of $1,000-$1,500 scholarships for high school graduates who are continuing their education beyond high school. To be eligible, applicants must be members of the FOCA or Jr. FOCA for one full year, have a minimum grade point average of 2.25, and submit their applications by March 31 of each year.

CHECK-LIST FOR STARTING A LOCAL JR FOCA GROUP

  1. Gather 5 or more youths (ages 10-17) who want to form a chapter.
  2. Receive the blessing of the parish priest to form a chapter within the parish to include ALL THE YOUTH OF AN APPROPRIATE AGE.
  3. Obtain two adults over 21 to serve as advisors. They can function either as co-advisors, or as advisor and assistant advisor.
  4. Write a letter to the National Executive Board requesting a chapter. This letter must indicate that the above has been obtained and includes the names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, birthdays and name days of the potential members and advisors.

The National Executive Board will review the request and upon approval will forward the contact information to the National Administrative Office for inclusion in all future mailings.

The Chairperson of the National Junior Committee will send a welcome packet to the new chapter, including a welcome letter, a copy of the Jr FOCA guidelines, and a copy of the “Orthodox Youth Ministry Tool Box.”

The appropriate District Advisor will contact the new chapter to fully inform it about District activities and procedures.

New Charters will be presented at that year’s National Convention.

Early each fall, the National Administrative Office will send each chapter’s advisors a listing of its known members for corrections and additions. Dues and membership updates for the group are to be sent to the National Administrative Office by November 30.

Hold an informational meeting for parents and interested adults.

Begin planning a regular schedule of activities based upon the group’s interests that includes opportunities for fellowship, education, worship, and service.

For More Information Contact:

FOCA National Administrative Office
10 Downs Drive (Plains)
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18705
(570) 825-3158 (Bus)
(570) 825-0136 (FAX)
E-mail: OrthodoxFellowship@yahoo.com
Website: http://www.homestead.com/foca

National Junior FOCA Committee
Chairperson Fr. Michael Anderson
PO Box 675
Syosset, NY 11791
(516) 922-0550 ext. 141
(515) 922-0954 (FAX)
E-mail: kmikea@earthlink.net
Website: http://www.focayouth.homestead.com/files/index.htm

Fr. Michael Anderson is Director of the OCA Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries.

The OCF Real Break Program

By Fr. Michael Anderson

Each year hundreds of thousands of college students take trips on their spring breaks from school. The Orthodox Christian Fellowship Real Break Program provides a powerful alternative to the “traditional” spring break, which many times can be nothing but foggy memories and empty experiences. As a national program of the OCF, each year a number of Orthodox institutions are selected to host teams of Real Break participants who during their spring break from college commit to a week of service, worship, and fellowship. To date, in a given year, there have been up to 6 teams of up to 15 participants going out, each on a different week during the spring.

This program provides opportunities for students to participate in service projects with other students looking for the same experience; all while maintaining Christ and His Church as the focus. Real Break provides opportunities for spiritual growth with one on one interaction, and having a priest accompanying each group. The experience also leaves the door open to many important personal realizations. The schedule includes daily prayer in the morning and evening and nightly discussions. Also, schedules are planned to allow for many informal interactions between priest and student and the student and the community. It is hoped that the intense service activity coupled with the presence of a spiritual guide will provide a rich catalyst for a spiritual experience.

Costs to participants can vary from $600-$1000 (which includes airfare, ground transportation, project fees, room and board, as well as a “nifty” t-shirt). While at first this may seem prohibitive, other than a personal commitment deposit, participants almost always are able to easily fundraise the rest of the cost. However, instead of just asking the donor to give money, participants ask them to become part of the experience. Upon returning from the trip, participants contact their donors and share their experiences, memories and pictures with them. All money raised in addition to the cost of the participant’s trip is donated to the location. In this way OCF Real Break is able to donate thousands of dollars to these Orthodox institutions helping them continue their ministry.

Over the past two years over 100 Orthodox college students from all over North America have participated in Real Break during their spring break. This year 6 teams made trips to Project Mexico (building houses)in Tijuana, Hogar Rafael Ayau (orphanage)in Guatemala, Raphael House (for the homeless) in San Francisco, and St. Basil’s Academy (for children) in New York.

Some quotes from participants

Project Mexico
“There is something about manual labor that is good for the soul (but hard on the knees). I have learned that it’s good to work hard and ache at the end of the day. It feels good to be exhausted at night, and it’s good to sleep like a rock.”
“This week was one of the most spiritually fulfilling weeks I have ever experienced. It definitely helped me refocus on what is important in my life. I found myself focusing on Christ.”
Orphanage in Guatemala
“It’s interesting that in Mexico or Guatemala people are poor in the pocket book, but are rich in spirit. Despite all of these differences we are so similar, in that we are both human… And made by the same Creator.”
“I learned so much from those kids in the orphanage. I could truly see Christ in them. It was inspiring to see Orthodoxy in action.”
“It was amazing to see the piety and happiness of the children. According to American standards, we think they are poor and needy, but in reality during my week at the orphanage I realized how poor I was. Material things do not bring happiness. Happiness comes from God and from loving your brothers and sisters around you.”
Raphael House, San Francisco
“It’s so incredible to actually try and live out the Gospel: to feed the hungry and help house the homeless. You feel part of something so much bigger than yourself.”

For more information on the Real Break Program go to www.ocf.net or call the national OCF Office at 1-800-919-1OCF.

Orthodox Christian Fellowship (OCF) is the official campus ministry effort of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA).

Fr. Michael Anderson is Director of the OCA Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries.